Dental hygienists clean teeth and provide other preventive dental care, as well as teach patients how to practice good oral hygiene. Hygienists examine patients' teeth and gums, recording the presence of diseases or abnormalities. They remove calculus, stains, and plaque from teeth; take and develop dental x rays; and apply cavity preventive agents such as fluorides and pit and fissure sealants. In some States, hygienists administer local anesthetics and anesthetic gas; place and carve filling materials, temporary fillings and periodontal dressings; remove sutures; and smooth and polish metal restorations. Dental hygienists also help patients develop and maintain good oral health. For example, they may explain the relationship between diet and oral health, inform patients how to select toothbrushes, and show patients how to brush and floss their teeth. Dental hygienists use hand and rotary instruments to clean teeth, x-ray machines to take dental radiographs, prepare syringes with needles to administer local anesthetics, and take impressions of patients’ teeth. When you complete Roane State’s program, you will be awarded an Associate of Applied Science degree in Dental Hygiene.
Almost all dental hygienists work in private dental offices. Some work in public health agencies, hospitals, and clinics.
More than half of all dental hygienists worked part time-less than 35 hours a week. Flexible scheduling is a distinctive feature of this job. Full-time, part-time, evening, and weekend work is widely available. Dentists frequently hire hygienists to work only 2 or 3 days a week, so hygienists may hold jobs in more than one dental office. Dental hygienists work in clean, well-lighted offices. Important health safeguards include strict adherence to proper radiological procedures, and use of appropriate protective devices when administering anesthetic gas. Dental hygienists also wear safety glasses, surgical masks and gloves to protect themselves from infectious diseases, such as hepatitis.
Dental hygienists must be licensed by the State in which they practice. To qualify for licensure, a candidate must graduate from an accredited dental hygiene school, such as Roane State’s, and pass both a written and clinical examination. The American Dental Association Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations administers the written examination that is accepted by all States and the District of Columbia. State or regional testing agencies administer the clinical examination. In addition, examinations on legal aspects of dental hygiene practice are required by most States. An associate degree is sufficient for practice in a private dental office.
About half of the dental hygiene programs prefer applicants who have completed at least 1 year of college. Some of the bachelor's degree programs require applicants to have completed 2 years. However, requirements vary from school to school. These schools offer laboratory, clinical, and classroom instruction in subjects such as anatomy, physiology, chemistry, microbiology, pharmacology, nutrition, radiography, histology (the study of tissue structure), periodontology (the study of gum diseases), pathology, dental materials, clinical dental hygiene, and social and behavioral sciences. Dental hygienists should work well with others and must have good manual dexterity because they use dental instruments with little room for error within a patient's mouth. Recommended high school courses for aspiring dental hygienists include biology, chemistry, and mathematics.
If you want to advance into research, teaching, or clinical practice in public or school health programs, a bachelor's or master's degree is usually required.
The Tennessee Department of Labor, 2010 Occupational Employment and Wages, statewide or Knoxville Metropolitan Area lists the average earnings of Dental Hygienists as $63,507.
Earnings of dental hygienists are affected by geographic location, employment setting, and education and experience. Dental hygienists who work in private dental offices may be paid on an hourly, daily, salary, or commission basis. Benefits vary substantially by practice setting, and may be contingent upon full-time employment. Dental hygienists who work for school systems, public health agencies, the Federal Government, or State agencies usually have substantial benefits.
Because multiple job holding is common in this field, the number of jobs greatly exceeds the number of hygienists. Employment of dental hygienists is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2006, in response to increasing demand for dental care and the greater substitution of hygienists for services previously performed by dentists. Demand will be stimulated by population growth, and greater retention of natural teeth by the larger number of middle-aged and elderly people. Also, dentists are likely to employ more hygienists for several reasons. Older dentists, who are less likely to employ dental hygienists, will leave and be replaced by recent graduates, who are more likely to do so. In addition, as dentists' workloads increase, they are expected to hire more hygienists to perform preventive dental care such as cleaning, so they may devote their own time to more profitable procedures.
Workers in other occupations supporting health practitioners in an office setting include dental assistants, ophthalmic medical assistants, podiatric medical assistants, office nurses, medical assistants, physician assistants, physical therapy assistants, and occupational therapy assistants.
The Dental Hygiene Program is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) 211 E. Chicago Avenue, Suite 1900, Chicago, IL 60611-2678; (312) 440-4653; www.ada.org.
Division of Professional Development
American Dental Hygienists' Association
444 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 3400
Chicago, IL 60611
Commission on Dental Accreditation
American Dental Association
211 E. Chicago Avenue, Suite 1814
Chicago, IL 60611
The Dental Hygiene Program is taught at the Oak Ridge Branch Campus.
After you complete your prerequisites and are accepted into the Dental Hygiene program, it will take you 2 years to complete the program.
Roane State’s placement rate has been 100% for the past few years.
Roane State Tuition & Fees
All tuition and fees are subject to change by the Tennessee Board of Regents.
* Program courses that are taken in an online format are subject to a distance education fee. A Specialized Allied Health Science Fee of $25 per credit hour will be applied to all Allied Health Science courses. See Tuition and Fees link above.
Books, Supplies and Additional Program Expenses
(Visit www.roanestate.edu/bookstore for book titles and prices)
Instruments: Approximately $2552 (first year), $200 (second year)
Uniforms: Approximately $220 (first year)
Student American Dental Hygiene Association Dues: $65 per year
Radiation badges: $88
National Board Examination (NBDHE): $400
Southern Regional Examination (SRTA): $950, plus site fees dependent on host institution